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July 21, 2019

Graeme McDowell

Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm not a hundred percent on top of my game at the minute. When it got tough out there I couldn't get it in the fairway, lost ball on 8. Missing that fairway left was a killer blow, really knocked the wind out of my sails a little bit.

I'm not going to let that spoil my week. It's been special. I've enjoyed every second. There's a few seconds I didn't enjoy, maybe Thursday afternoon.

But it's been great. Really, really proud. I'm proud of Portrush and proud of Northern Ireland and I'm proud of Ireland. Ireland is pretty proud as we watch Shane Lowry trying to win.

The people have been amazing this week. The golf course has been phenomenal. The R&A have done a phenomenal job here for the players and families and everyone involved, and hopefully the spectators. The golf course has been incredibly well presented. And everyone is telling me this is their favourite Open venue they've ever been to up. So many ticks in all the right boxes this week.

I think the weather is going to test the players to the very limit now. We've seen flat, calm conditions, we've seen wind directions changing all week. You could say they've seen a lot of Portrush. They've seen a lot of what this golf course can offer.

Perhaps the best players this week, the guys on the leaderboard, are going to be tested to the highest level coming in. I hope it proves to be a great finish.

Q. Including Ryder Cups, you haven't had many receptions like you just got on the 18th.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Obviously the rain and the weather and the sting, it took the sting out of the reception a little bit. I've got to say yesterday was one of the most special days outside of Ryder Cups. I was walking up that first hole at 10 a.m. yesterday morning, they were ten deep. It was like a Ryder Cup. Really amazing.

And pretty -- walking up 18 the rain was coming in. But the people have been amazing. They haven't let down in any shape or form. They've been amazing.

We knew this was going to be a special Open. To have an Irishman at the top of the leaderboard is extra, extra special. Listen, it could have been me, Darren or Rory, having a Northern Irishmen, it might even be another notch more special.

Listen, I'm pulling hard for Shane, I really hope he gets it done. Portrush could be pretty messy later if he does.

Q. Have you spoken to Shane?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I had a few words with him before, obviously. In that scenario you don't want to send any messages, any cliches. He's an experienced kid. He knows what to do. I literally just told him to go and be him, go play Shane Lowry golf. Sounds like he's going to need to play Shane Lowry golf, it's amazing out there.

Not dissimilar scenes to how he won in Baltray, all the way back to the Irish Open when he won as an amateur. The weather didn't look quite this bad, but awfully similar. What I saw from the coverage, the way he's driving the ball and the way he's controlling the ball off the tee, that's going to be the key for the next few hours if he can keep it in play and avoid the big miss. That's what he needs to stay away from right now.

Q. There was a bogey on the first hole.
GRAEME McDOWELL: He seems to be feeding off the crowd. I watched him play on the back nine last night. He looked to be really enjoying it. Obviously it was great conditions. He had some chances to make birdies.

This is going to test him, absolutely test him. But no one's going to come from the back now at this point. It's just a case of him trying to hang on or is he going to go back to the pack a little bit. So it's going to be interesting.

Like I said, I just hope it remains fair out there. It doesn't sound it right now. Listen, pulling really, really hard for him. I hope he gets it done. He's got Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood, I'd love to see any of those guys win. You don't want to see Shane lose it from this point. I'd love to see him win.

Q. (Inaudible.)
GRAEME McDOWELL: He can create his own shadows. Pete Cowen tells an amazing story, went to the Irish squad training down in Dublin and the guy said, Who do you like? And he obviously said, Rory McIlroy looks pretty good, but that slightly overweight kid with the glasses on, who was Shane Lowry at the time, he looks good. So he's always been talented.

I remember the first day I met him. I just shot 61 at Baltray the week he won. And he came in and shot 62, and he didn't even introduce himself, he said, I can't believe you beat me by 1 out there today. And I'm like, Who's this kid?

But we've become very good friends. I've always respected his game so much because he's very ballsy. He's a phenomenal driver of the ball. He's maybe the best chipper I've ever seen. Apart from Phil Mickelson, I don't know anyone who chips as good as him.

I played a few holes in practice with him Tuesday and Wednesday and he's flipping lobbers off the fringes. I'm kind of laughing at him. That's the way he plays practice rounds. He might need his lobber here in the next few hours, let's put it that way.

He's a great kid. He'd be a great Open Champion. Right now it's pretty hard to say, anything can happen. I'm excited to go sit down in front of my TV and see what's going to happen.

I had an opportunity to post a number today, and probably post a really good finish, but that didn't happen. But like I say, I enjoyed the week so much. And we'll see if we can get a great winner out there.

Q. (Inaudible.)
GRAEME McDOWELL: I've heard the whispers as well that we could be back here as soon as five years from now. But I think with the financial commitment that Portrush have made for this, for it to get the recognition and then get back here soon, to keep that Portrush train rolling, it would be huge. It would be huge. If we have to wait another ten years, the icing might rub off between now and then. People might forget a little bit.

Hopefully we can get back soon. It would be very, very special. Like I said, up until about an hour ago this has been the perfect week. I just hope this doesn't spoil it.

Q. Any comment from the players you've spoken that really hit you?
GRAEME McDOWELL: They just love the golf course. They feel like it's the best links they've ever seen. I think the balance this golf course has, it's all there in front of you. It's got in length, it's got some short. It's got some quirkiness in places. But it's all there. It's very fair.

They're just loving it. It was bathed in sunshine Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. So they got off to a flier. Get the microphones out here in the next few hours and get some comments and it might be slightly different. I don't think anyone wants this.

But I think a links course you always want to test the guys and show them what's possible, give them a chance in some nice conditions and see what they can do. Give them a little wind and see what they can do. I'm not sure lashing rain tests anybody fairly.

But caddies and players and some of the commentating crew out there, people are saying it's just one of the best links they've ever seen. Which is high praise from the best players in the world who get to play the best courses on the planet. So very special.

Q. That ovation on 18, again showing that this is a week for the home players like no other.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Absolutely. The crowds have treated us amazingly this week. North or south of the border, it doesn't matter. It's been an amazing welcome.

Yeah, it was emotional times this week. Thursday morning on the first tee was very emotional. Yesterday, Saturday, was probably one of the funnest days I've had on a golf course outside of a Ryder Cup, really. There were tens of thousands of people out there cheering me on on the third group on a Saturday morning. It was special.

Today was disappointing, just more my own game. I'm not playing my best at the minute. And when the wind started to blow a little bit, but I'm not going to let that take my edge off the enjoyment level this week. It's been amazing on so many levels. Very proud of what everyone has accomplished here.

Q. It's been playing tough all week, that back nine. What are the main challenges, just the mental thing? Do the conditions make that much of a difference?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, it's probably more physical. When the conditions are this difficult, it's not like you have any quiet time in your mind, when the rain is bouncing off your ears, when you're trying to hit a drive.

It's really about controlling his tee balls out there. If he can keep the ball in some shape or form under control. There's a lot of hard tee shots out there: 8, 9, 11, 14, 15, 17. There's a lot of tough tee shots ahead of him.

Like I say, watching the coverage yesterday, to me that was the part he had really under control. It looked like he drove the eyes out of it yesterday. But obviously this is going to test him to the fullest.

Q. You're all members of that major club, is that something you give him a gentle ribbing over the years?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You don't need to rib Shane, you can see it in his eyes. He's one of the most competitive people I've ever met, to a fault nearly. You're out there playing nine holes with him. We always used to joke he wants to beat me more on a Wednesday than he wants to win a tournament.

I feel like Shane's always got one eye on what the other Irish players are doing. He wants to be the top Irishman. He's just that kind of guy. And he knows. If he wins today, look at his résumé, Major Champion, a WGC, a Rolex series event, he won the Irish Open as an amateur. It's pretty lofty stuff for a kid that hasn't won much around the world.

He feels comfortable on the big stage. Right now he's on the biggest stage out there. It's a windswept, rain-swept stage.

Like I say, I hope it remains fair out there. I hope the R&A are conscious and monitoring this golf course and making sure it doesn't get to a level where it becomes unfair for the players.

Q. Are you going to be chief party organizer tonight?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm pretty good at that, to be fair. Put it this way, I'll be right in the middle of it, hopefully. He'll be a very busy man if he wins. But I don't want to tempt fate. He has a big job to do out there, a lot of work to do. But I'm sure there will be a couple of pints of Guinness this evening if it happens.

Q. It's going to be hard for the people at Portrush to come down over the next few weeks. You have to be proud of how this came together over the last four years?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I am. Probably the thing I'm most proud of are the atmosphere the crowds have created. I've had several comments from players about Rory coming in Friday night, it was like a Ryder Cup, like he was leading the tournament. And obviously Shane last night. It was amazing.

I'm proud of the atmosphere and that people have been as proud to go out there and behave well and support well and support all the players, and treat everyone like one of their own. That's the way the people of Ireland are. They're welcoming people.

They're going to be tested out there right now, to be fair to them. Like I say, proud at all levels. Let's hope we get a great champion.

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